Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Stepping Up.”
How can I help?
That’s one of the first questions Galen Driver contemplated shortly after Washington enacted a stay-home order in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I can’t sell masks and be helpful in that way,” said the 32-year-old marketing and creative consultant with ties to art, music and photography. “But I got a good amount of friends in the local art scene who had jobs fall through and looking to connect with people.”
Driver initially reached out to artist One Seven Nine and muralist Joe Nix to gauge their interest in a coloring book project called “Stay Inside the Lines Seattle.”
“They loved it and that gave me the confidence to run with it,” Driver said. “In about two weeks’ time, I was able to get the first batch of pages and have enough to go with a solid project.”
Initially, Driver curated 17 illustrations from local artists he released April 10 on the website stayinsidethelines.co as free downloads.
“I had a bunch more artists reach out to me wanting to get involved, so a few weeks later I was able to release a second batch of pages (on April 28 with 12 illustrations),” he said. “In the first 30 days, we had over 4,000 website visits and 1,000 downloads. That was just organically through linking on Instagram, people sharing and using the hashtag and artists helping to promote it.
“Now it’s evolving into a growing resource of free art activities. … I want to let it kind of live and breathe and grow into its own thing for the city.”
Two weeks ago, Driver obtained four additional illustrations for Mother’s Day and plans to roll out more artwork next month for Father’s Day. He’s also considering selling a print version of the “Stay Inside The Lines Seattle” coloring book, with proceeds benefiting a charity or an organization supporting local arts.
“A lot of friends and co-workers said the arts weren’t at the top of the priority list during home schooling,” Driver said. “I just wanted to help keep arts alive with kids stuck at home and families looking for activities.
“I’d also seen a really staggering stat about many adults using adult coloring books as a mental health tool. That stuck in my head as well. It felt like the right time and the right activity to provide as a free resource to the community.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Martha Dorn, the executive director of The Art Therapy Project, a nonprofit based in New York City, said coloring books have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
“Repetitive strokes provide temporary relief from life stressors,” Dorn said. “The focus required to color can keep negative emotions away.”
In addition to One Seven Nine and Nix, the Stay Inside the Lines Seattle project includes artworks from local muralist Ryan Henry Ward.
Prominent tattoo artists Kyler Martz and Mason Montgomery contributed artworks as well as They Drift, the collaborative duo Carlos Aguilar and Ksra, whose “Stay Home Stay Healthy” mural in Capitol Hill has appeared in national publications.
“How cool is it for a kid to color all of these pages by these artists and then get out after the lockdown and drive around and see those artists on the walls in their city?” Driver said. “They’re establishing a personal connection … and that benefits the artists long term to build these fans.
“This isn’t your ordinary coloring book. It’s not paint by numbers by any means. We provide the template, and then people use their imagination to collaborate with their favorite street artists to create something entirely new.”